Friday, December 13, 2013

Keep Doing What You Do!

Hello all of you creative types out there!
I hope you’re all full of energy and positivity.  And I hope that you’re pursuing your dreams with all the vigor that you can muster. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

It's My Turn

Any parents out there?

A little while back I posted something on Facebook about my having to intervene in a dispute
between my 9 year old son and soon to be 7 year old daughter.  The dispute was over a plain
No. 2 pencil.  Nothing fancy about it, no decorations, no carvings.  And there were other
No. 2 pencils scattered on the floor within easy reach to serve as replacement.
Maybe there was some principle involved that I couldn't understand.

We do the best we can to teach our children, and provide them guidance.  Help them learn to
reason and eventually develop good decision making skills and hopefully acquire wisdom.
But at some point, their turn is going to come.  Oh, I'm not talking about them having children
of their own someday, which may or may not happen.  I'm talking about the time when they will no
longer be interested in our guidance and will want to make their own decisions.

I refer to it as taking their turn.  We all take our turn.  But often as parents we're unwilling
to recognize or acknowledge when it's our children's turn.  Now, I'm not talking about giving up
the reigns prematurely.  If you're living in my house and you're under 18 - you have not yet
earned your turn.

But ultimately whether we think they have earned it or not, our children will TAKE their turn.
Just like we took ours.

I'm also not saying that we don't let them know that there's a bus coming down the street at a
speed of 60 miles an hour, and will probably smash them to bits if they don't get out of the way.
You always have to deliver that kind of information, whether they like it or not.  But what we
as parents have to wrap our minds around is the idea that they will TAKE their turn and we won't
always like how they use their turn.

We may not agree with their choice for dating.  We may not agree with their choice of study.
We may not agree with their choice in politics or philosophy, or eating habits.

But we can either accept that they are entitled to their turn or risk being alienated from them.
I don't know about you, but I'm preparing my neural pathways to be ready for when they take their turn.
Take a turn and check me out at

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sticks And Stones... And The N-Word

“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.”  This little mantra was something that was taught in elementary school, back in the day.  It was a way of explaining to children that one shouldn’t get into fights simply due to verbal insults that others may hurl.  However, it misses the point that words can and do cause harm.  Yet, I do agree with its point of avoiding violence as a means to settle an issue.

Recent events in the world of Pro-Football have caused me to think more about certain words (well one word in particular) and how they hurt.  I’m sure anyone that follows Pro-Football and perhaps many that don’t; have become at least passingly familiar with the situation surrounding Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, and Incognito’s alleged use of the “N-word”.

Among the comments that readers leave on articles about the story, are questions asking why is it “OK” for African Americans to use the “N-word”, but it’s not OK for others to do so.  I’ve seen comments where readers have mentioned that the “N-word” has been used as a term of “endearment”.

I’ve read comments where there is some attempt to make a distinction about the pronunciation of the “N-word”, that using the “er” sound is different than using the “ah” sound at the end.  This is as if it’s similar to pronouncing “fifty” as “fid-dey”.  One is stylized and perhaps sounds cool to some and the other is just plain, proper English.  But does the actual meaning change?

In recent times, a notion has developed that we can “remove the power” of the “N-word” by using it openly and not treating it as a taboo.  Following that line of reasoning, perhaps all African Americans should also consider displaying the Confederate Flag in their homes and on their vehicles.

I find it incredible that a pejorative such as the “N-word” could ever remotely be considered a “term of endearment”.  But it does underscore the skill with which the word has been woven into the fabric of our society.  It’s become ubiquitous – it’s like when someone wants bleach – most people ask for “Clorox”, or when you want facial tissue – it’s “give me a Kleenex”.

As to why African Americans use the “N-word” in reference to ourselves, I’m sure there are tons of books out there written by people who are far more qualified than me, to provide some analysis.  I was born at the height of the civil-rights movement.  And as a child of the 70’s, the word was hurled at me, and for a time I hurled it at others.  It was part of the environment.  It was ubiquitous.  That didn’t make it right then, and it doesn’t make it right now.

In my view, the real problem with the use of the “N-word”, and my issue with those who believe that you can “take the power” away from the word by using it is this:  Far beyond whatever meaning is ascribed to the word for its utility as an insult, is the issue of institutionalized racism which provides the actual power.  And until this institutionalized and systemic racism is defeated, there is no removing the “power” from the “N-word”.

So, to my Caucasian friends who may wonder why it’s not OK to use the word when they hear other African Americans do so – this requires attempting to understand “white privilege” through the lens of an African American.  There has been no pejorative designed that can be hurled at a White American that comes anywhere close to being as pernicious and demeaning as the “N-word”, because it’s a question of the power that underpins the pejorative.  This power creates an undeniable reality that provides substance to the insult.  If one were to call someone a “piker” or an “obsequious toad” – it would in most cases be considered insulting, but one could dismiss it on any number of levels because there probably isn’t a power or system involved to designate one as such or to remind you of your place and why such a word has an air of legitimacy.

The “N-word” on the other hand carries the legacy of slavery, the legacy of a people that were deemed three-fifths human.  The reality of incarceration rates that are about double that of Whites who commit the same offenses as African Americans.  Stop and frisk policies and racial profiling.  The list goes on.

In my view the word should be retired from everyone’s vocabulary along with the institutionalized and systemic racism that goes with it.  The cynic in me says that it will never happen, but the dreamer in me waits for the day when it can become reality.
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Twitter: @leemanuelsmusic

Monday, April 8, 2013

Speak No Evil

I think you all probably recognize that the idea of constitutionally protected free speech is only a restriction for Government and not private enterprise.

So, if you work for a media outlet and you want to exercise your freedom of speech as protected by the US Constitution, you can be blocked by your employer, or they can refuse to publish what you want to say.

I’ve recently been advised in my writing that I should avoid an overly negative tone and that I should discuss things in a more general nature instead of mentioning specific events or personalities.
Needless to say, this type of censoring can render the point one wants to make moot, because it will take away most or all of A MESSAGE’S context.  But, then again maybe that’s the point.

We live in a time where what we once called bad is now good.  Up is down.  And no one is supposed to notice.

So, if a prominent politician or elected official campaigned on the promise of, let’s say, a “New SUV in every drive way (I won’t use a brand name, since I’m trying to avoid specific mentions, and this could be viewed as negative) – and then subsequently not only fails to deliver on the “New SUV”, but proceeds to claim that this was never offered or promised; we’re not supposed to take notice.  And according to the standards of some Publishers, one is not to name the offender or indeed to even discuss the matter as this would obviously have the effect of being overly negative…that is, if you’re one of the people who actually believed what the politician campaigned on.

Or, perhaps if discussed at all it should be put in the best possible light, such as, after considering the obvious deleterious effects on the environment providing a “New SUV” in every driveway would cause, the wise and pragmatic politician decided that it was more important to instead require that everyone purchase a new vehicle that meets federally mandated fuel efficiency standards.

Of course, during the discussion, it would be impermissible to point out the fact that, not only are those who hoped for that “New SUV” are being ridiculed by those that did the promising, but they are also now required to purchase a new vehicle that they may not want or be able to afford.  However, it would be permissible to assert that if the circumstance is considered undesirable, it would undoubtedly be the fault of the other political party.

You may substitute whatever you wish for the “New SUV”.  Perhaps it’s a “more humble foreign policy”.  Or maybe it’s something called a “public option”.  But if you’re not allowed to discuss the specifics and the actual players involved there’s not much point in attempting to address a subject.  Freedom of speech can come at a high price, in particular when we hear and see evil, but conventional wisdom or the demands of one’s job require that we not speak of the evil in unambiguous terms.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Teflon Executive

It must be nice to be Teflon.  You know that wonderful substance where nothing sticks to you?.  You get to operate with impunity and actually have people defend your actions.

You get to promise Hope and Change while delivering none of it.  Actually the former is supplied by the “Kool-Aid” drinkers while the latter is more a matter of style over substance.

You get to talk of looking forward and not backward, as an excuse not to investigate possible crimes of your predecessor and have most people cheer about what a wise and pragmatic decision it is.

You get to continue the very same policies of your predecessor – many of which you campaigned against, with the backing of people who are grateful that you are “keeping them safe”.

You get the virtual undying loyalty of people who look like me and whose parents suffered under the lash of Jim Crow, who never thought they or their parents would see the day when someone that looked like them would be elected to the highest office in the country.

You probably are able to chuckle inside about the irony of some groups being afraid that you might somehow promote polices that could be considered favorable to people who look like me or other minorities, when your answer to that is your belief that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”  No matter any evidence to the contrary.

You get to threaten Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and blame it on the other party.  Actually you don’t even have to blame the other party, because many people simply refuse to believe it’s even happening.

You get to take “single payer” off the table, and pretend to offer a “public option” – negotiate it away in backroom deals, and have one of your spokespeople refer to those who take exception to this as “f’ing retards”, but not to worry, because nothing sticks.

You get to tell the “middle class” that you’re on their side and fighting for them, while extending tax cuts for the Power Elite.

You get to provide bail outs to our “too big to fail Banks”, while millions of home owners face foreclosure without aid resembling anything close to what the Banks received.

You get to assert powers that when used by others are described as tyrannical and have most of us shrug our shoulders, and say things like “well, hasn’t it always been this way?” And sadly, unless we become willing to scrape away the Teflon, and accept our responsibilities as citizens, I suppose it always will be.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Outrage Unexpressed

Why isn’t there more outrage over the Obama Administration reserving the right to kill US Citizens on foreign or US soil without due process as guaranteed in the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution?

Have we become so afraid of whom our government calls terrorists that we’re willing to surrender all of our constitutional protections?

It’s really easy to think that these powers are OK, because “I’ll never be targeted by them after all, I’m not a ‘terrorist’, it’s those ‘other people’.

But I would urge caution against that type of thinking.  The government’s definition of terrorist and “associated forces” can be very elastic.  And since they also don’t bother to make public any evidence that they possess in determining that one is a threat, any of us could very well fit the bill.

There were loud complaints from many quarters about the Bush Administration detaining suspects indefinitely without access to lawyers.  Where are those same voices now that a successor administration from the other party is actually putting people to death?

Maybe we’re all just worn out?  Maybe after participating in the “rat race” and doing our “make ends meet dance” – there just isn’t any energy or desire to express outrage.

Or maybe we just don’t care.  Maybe we believe in the notion that these actions actually keep us safe, instead of creating more enemies for us in the future.  Maybe we believe in the idea that any and all actions taken by our country to make us safe are so obviously noble, just and good, that this (drone strikes, no warrant wire taps, indefinite detention) doesn’t merit consideration.

Perhaps we simply defer to our government and believe that they must know more than we do and are undoubtedly doing the right thing. You know, to keep us safe.

I can’t help but think that some future historian will look back at this time and wonder where were the protests, where was the dissent?  Oh, I understand that everyone’s circumstance doesn’t allow  them to participate in such things.  But my sense is that there’s a fair amount of apathy surrounding what should be considered highly controversial. (Just as I was finishing this - the Administration gave a definitive statement that they do not claim the right to make drone strikes on US soil against US Citizens - but be careful when you go on vacation outside of the country.)

Maybe there would be more of a response if the Government somehow interfered with our “right” to purchase cable TV.  Heck, they’d better be careful – that could actually lead to widespread civil disturbances, you know an actual outrage.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Don't Let The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Productive

How many of you out there consider yourselves a "perfectionist"?

It's not a bad trait. There's a lot of value in making whatever you're working on the best that it can be. But do you find that you have difficulty with completing projects on time? Do you find that the "perfectionist" in you causes you to obsess over minor issues, or that you're constantly second guessing yourself.

Do, I select Blue, Light Blue, Aqua? I understand that in certain situations a choice like that may be considered make or break. But in many others that particular decision won't represent the end of the world if it's not the most perfect.

Some of us may be guilty of using the "perfectionist" in us as an excuse or as a crutch and it can prevent us from moving forward and being productive. Look around and check to see how many unfinished projects you have laying around. How many bits and pieces of ideas which have never been molded to completion all because you didn't have the "perfect" whatever to make them just right.

The thing we have to come to grips with, is that no matter how "perfect" we make something, there will always be someone, somewhere to find fault with the effort. And I suppose if we're honest with ourselves we can accept that there's always room for improvement.

Often times the "perfectionist" has difficulty accepting constructive criticism and so the defense mechanism becomes - well if I'm always perfecting it - and I don't release it or publish it, then no one can say anything critical about my work.

But then, when you take that path, you wind up with not a lot of visible production for your efforts. It's always, "oh, I'm working on this idea"; or "I'm just about to finish" something else. But you have to ask yourself, where's your completed project which has been published for the "world" or your peers to see?

Well, it's over there on the shelf... waiting for perfection. I've become of fan of the continuous improvement approach. And it's great to strive for perfection, but you also need to understand that you are where you are at a particular point in time. Make your best effort and then make it available and be willing to accept whatever the critique may be from others. You may very well learn something that helps you to improve on your next outing.

This is not an argument for "just throwing anything out there". You always want to do the best you can, and make whatever you're working on the best that it can be. Just try to avoid becoming paralyzed waiting for something that may never come... the mythical "perfection".